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School of Hard Knocks: Fed Education Data Shows Racial Disparities, Unequal Opportunity

by Marian Wang ProPublica, March 6, 2012, 1:25 p.m. Eastern

 

Schools serving the most black and Hispanic students are less likely to offer rigorous subjects such as calculus and physics and more likely to employ teachers with only a year or two of experience. Those findings come from a new data analysis by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Later today, the department will be releasing the survey data underlying this analysis 2014 the 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection, which contains a wide range of school-level statistics covering course offerings, teacher salaries and absenteeism, student discipline and student outcomes.

Among the findings highlighted by the Education Department:

  • Black students were more than three times as likely to be suspended or expelled relative to their white counterparts. Racial disparities in discipline, of course, have been reported before, but according to the department’s analysis, this trend held true across all districts in the sample.
  • White and Asian students were disproportionately overrepresented in gifted and talented programs — comprising nearly three-quarters of enrollment in such programs — while black and Hispanic students were disproportionately underrepresented.
  • Students with disabilities comprised only 12 percent of students in the sample, but were an overwhelming majority of students subjected to physical restraint.

This data release from the department builds on the same dataset we used for ProPublica’s Opportunity Gap project last year, which highlighted the link between poverty and unequal access to high-level courses across the nation.

The newest data has not yet been independently verified, so in the coming weeks, we’ll be cleaning, cross-checking, and incorporating it into our interactive schools app. Meantime, you can check out how we did it the last time around and play around with the app, which we aim to have updated soon.


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